Cherokee Oklahoma Selenite – Spring 2012

We’ve been wanting to do this trip for a while; so we decided to embark on a long 3-day weekend trip with my dad and my kids to go Selenite digging in the Great Salt Plains in North-central Oklahoma.  I did some calling around and because of the oil boom and the Wynoka Rattlesnake Festival no hotels were available except in Enid; so we opted for a place in neighboring Anthony Kansas–the Anthony Motel & Cafe.

The Cafe was closed and I think we were the only non-oil industry guests at the motel; but it was nice enough…we got the Harley room so who could ask for more? Got there Friday evening and hung out in the room and went to bed early.  Drove south to Cherokee OK on Saturday morning and headed out to the Salt Plains.  Being a storm chaser as well; I was amazed that we were in the center of the high risk area; so we kept our eye open for building storms all day…

The wind was brutal; about a 30-40 mile southerly wind all day that picked up about 3:00pm…so we decided we had enough digging and decided to leave.  Of course, like everyone else, we lost several things that blew out of the back of the truck and we couldn’t catch them it was blowing so hard!

We dug all day and found that the Selenites were a couple of inches below the ground.  Hunter discovered that if you dug near the standing water you’d find crystals right away.  They said to dig a hole in the sand, let it fill with water (we are at the water table) and then use a bucket or can to wash the sand from the walls.  This did work and crystals did fall into the murky, sandy water; but we discovered that the Crystals exist right at the interface between the sand and clay usually; so we ended up just digging horizontal about 3″ below that interface and then pulling out the crystals on the top of the sand rather than in the water…seemed quicker and easier.  You can either set out the crystals in the wind to dry; or just toss them in a bucket…we did both.

There appeared to be several types of crystals.  Those that formed in the sand, we called them “Sandy”.  Those that formed in the clay that were larger and brownish.  Those that formed in clay that were bow-ties of sand in clear crystals, we called them “bow ties”.  Those that formed in both sand and clay; we called them “changlings”.

Note that digging this way you have to be careful with your shovel as it is easy to break or bend it…we bent one of ours and another person there broke their metal shovel.  The clay is stiff and heavy; so go easy.  Daphne discovered the “motherload” of the day which put us into the great clusters and bow-tie crystals…of course this was just before we wanted to leave so we ended up staying an extra hour…but it was worth it.

Storm Prediction Center issues a high risk; we were in the center of it!

Storm Prediction Center issues a high risk; we were in the center of it!

We went home and saw the storms forming on radar…the ones that looked to impact our location of Anthony were at the time near Woodward, OK; which is where several folks died.  The storm directly impacted Cherokee where we were all day (note that when we drove through every carwash and other bay was taken by cars already).  I decided not to chase the storms given I was with the family and in Erin’s truck (hail damage was not an option; plus some of the side dirt roads would not be good in her car) so we decided to hang out in Anthony.  About dark; the storm came through and we took refuge in the local funeral home basement; which was the normal storm shelter after the sirens started blaring!  The kids got a good experience of what it is like to be a citizen in tornado prone areas (they’ve been on several chases with me prior…so they know that side too; which isn’t as scary).  The twister went about 4 miles SE of town on its way to Wichita.

On the way home Daphne wanted to see “tornado damage” so I chose a route to put us through where I read there were touch-downs.  We saw some damage near Hudson which was relatively minor; albeit still scary!

Overall a great trip, some amazing crystals and chased by a storm on a high risk day in the heart of tornado alley! Great fun!

Rural small town propaganda.  Obama Care wasn't popular with this guy and his junk

Rural small town propaganda. Obama Care wasn’t popular with this guy and his junk

Rural propaganda

Rural propaganda

Our hotel in Anthony Kansas, the "Harley Room"

Our hotel in Anthony Kansas, the “Harley Room”

Just south of Cherokee, Oklahoma

Just south of Cherokee, Oklahoma

Entrance to the state park

Entrance to the state park

Driving into the salt flats; used to be trees and winter wheat everywhere...

Driving into the salt flats; used to be trees and winter wheat everywhere…

Just in case you dig up some old military heirlooms

Just in case you dig up some old military heirlooms

Tornadic storm after the core passed just south and east of Anthony.

Tornadic storm after the core passed just south and east of Anthony.

Tornado thrown sheet metal into a power line

Tornado thrown sheet metal into a power line

Some of the nicer clusters of bowtie selenite

Some of the nicer clusters of bowtie selenite

More clusters of selenite

More clusters of selenite

Nice bowtie selenites

Nice bowtie selenites

Cool cluster of selenite

Cool cluster of selenite

We brought home two classifiers filled with crystals!

We brought home two classifiers filled with crystals!

Some of the nice selenite finds

Some of the nice selenite finds

Interesting selenite crystals, not the normal "bowtie" blades

Interesting selenite crystals, not the normal “bowtie” blades

Cool clusters of selenite

Cool clusters of selenite

Some of the larger bowtie selenite crystals

Some of the larger bowtie selenite crystals

Silver Lining Tours Master Class 2005 10-day Tornado Chase Tour – Day 3 – NW Kansas Outbreak

Day #3.  Thursday.  6/9/2005.  Northwest Kansas Tornado Outbreak.

NWS Summary

We woke up today with some good news.  The outflow boundary from the Wichita storms was pushing into central Oklahoma but there was a 4 county wide corridor of unobstructed area in central to western Kansas that was pushing warm moisture up into north western Kansas.  In Russell where we stayed the night we woke up to northerly winds that were 25-35 mph and were very muggy.

There was a dry line in western Kansas, a low pressure in north eastern Colorado, a synoptic warm front in north western Kansas all coming together for a classic triple-point in North western Kansas.  We headed west and as we knew one or more storms would go up and dominate.  We found our storm on radar that exploded (went from a column to huge anvil in 20 minutes) just west of Hayes.

This storm took a while to get organized but if finally did around Hill City. Boy did it.  As I was talking to the local Sheriff the very active wall cloud popped down a large stovepipe tornado.  We followed this storm into Hill City and by that time it was about 2 miles south of town heading north east.

We headed south into its path and after we passed the river we had to quickly turn around as this monster wedge was less than 1/4 mile away and
coming straight at us.  This was a very violent tornado and we hoped that it didn’t cross the river as there was a group of about 6 houses that would have been quickly demolished.  This storm formed a 1/4 mile wide wedge and became rain wrapped so we couldn’t see it.  We knew it was in there by the flashing of power transformers within the rain wrapped core.  The storm started building a new wall cloud in front of the rain wrapped mess and quickly put down another tornado.



Note there are two big tornadoes in the above picture taken while we were in the van…

We quickly moved to stay in front of it and saw may wall clouds, funnels and tornados form and reform.  Luckily this storm spared 4 towns that were
almost in its path (missing by less than 2 miles per town).  We heard lots of sirens today.  We then parked and saw the inflow scud form right on the
road around us as another tornado formed 1/2 mile to our south.  Here the storm again reformed and close to Damar a nice elephant trunk formed, with another large cone just behind it (both at the same time).  This is probably what you saw on the weather channel as the contrast was amazing and it was running parallel to us about 1/8 mile north of our road.  The north tornado dissipated and the beautiful elephant trunk eventually roped out.

This storm was now being seeded by another monster supercell to its southwest and so we headed back to Hayes to start the chase over.

Heading east on I-70 out of Hayes we quickly saw a huge cone tornado.
There was also reformation of another agressively rotating wall cloud directly over I-70.  I can’t believe the truckers were barrelling right under this
wall cloud while another tornado was just south of the interstate.  We learned later that 44 trucks were overturned on the interstate.  This thing
was quickly on top of us and we had no choice but to turn around and head east on I-70 back towards Hayes.  We followed this storm towards Stockton and saw yet another short lived cigar tornado.  This storm appeared to be turning into a HP and so we decided to go get some dinner, and reports have it just a few minutes after we left its beautiful wall cloud it put down a large rain wrapped tornado.  These are hard to see and thus quite dangerous so it was good we left this storm when we did.

We’re thinking this RFD winds (probably close to 100 mph) is what blew over the 44 trucks on I-70.  You can see the dust being picked up and also the structure of this supercell!

Another picture of the Zurich double tornado as it roped out.  The second tornado is dissipating directly behind.

We all lost count of how many tornadoes, funnels and wall clouds that we saw today.  We are counting 7 tornadoes based on our recollection of the mesos, although many of these mesos put down multiple tornados, pulled back up, and put back down again.  We counted these as just one tornado.  Otherwise I suspect the count would be near 15.

Tomorrow will be another intense day as similar conditions are going to be present in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandle.  Once again we saw quite a
lightening display on our way to the hotel in Dodge City.